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Barnard Park pitch closure: Islington Council to face fury of parents

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 June 2017

Kids from Highbury Football School boo Islington Council's decision to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch last month. Picture: Polly Hancock

Kids from Highbury Football School boo Islington Council's decision to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch last month. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Fury at Islington Council’s decision to shut the Barnard Park sports pitch is set to resurface on Thursday.

Protesters will gather at a meeting of the full council as they try and hold town hall leaders to account.

It is the last free-to-use full-size pitch left in Islington. But last month, the council approved its own application to dig up the pitch and replace it with a smaller one, a third of the size. It will also build “grassy areas” as part of a refurb of the Barnsbury park’s east side.

There were more people, 126, who supported the plans than objected, 42. But the decision caused uproar at Highbury Football School, which trains up to 150 kids on the pitch every Saturday and Sunday. Sport England also objected, meaning the decision could yet be overturned by the government. Both parties called for the current pitch, which is in poor condition, to be redeveloped.

Five people are scheduled to ask searching questions of the council on Thursday. Among them are Chris Conroy, who will say: “Is the council aware there are several funders available – for example The Football Foundation – who would be willing to fund the vast majority of redevelopment of the pitch at Barnard Park in its current size, therefore saving lots of money for Islington taxpayers?”

In a town hall made up of 47 Labour councillors and a sole opposition Green member, Islington Council meetings usually pass without drama.

But 15 questions from the public are scheduled. Other issues to be raised include the Sobell Leisure Centre trampoline park fallout, and “astonishing” levels of bike theft in Islington.

Meanwhile, in the members’ questions session, Holloway Cllr Rakhia Ismail will voice concerns in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Finsbury Park, in which her husband Yassin Hersi was injured.

She will ask community safety leader Cllr Andy Hull: “The recent terrorist attack at Finsbury Park Mosque has shocked us all, and more and more parents are worried for young Muslim girls going about their daily life. Are you aware of these concerns, and what will Islington Council do about this?”

The town hall meeting starts at 7.30pm.

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